15 December 1999

Chief Scientist for the Queensland Department of Primary Industries Dr Joe Baker will be guest speaker at one of two University of Queensland graduation ceremonies tomorrow, Wednesday, December 15.

Dr Baker, who is also Commissioner for the Environment with the ACT will address graduands at the 6.15pm ceremony at Mayne Hall, St Lucia.

Graduands from the Faculties of Biological and Chemical Sciences, and Engineering, Physical Sciences and Architecture will attend the UQ ceremonies, at 4pm and 6.15pm.

As Chief Scientist Dr Baker advises the Queensland Government on issues relevant to food and fibre-based science and technology, and assists in ensuring public investment in science and technology is directed according to State Government policy.

Born and raised in Warwick, Dr Baker graduated Bachelor of Science (Honours), Master of Science and PhD from The University of Queensland. He was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1982 for services to marine science; elected as a Fellow, Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering in 1989; was Leighton Medallist (RACI) in 1993 and Adrien Albert Lecturer in 1995. Dr Baker has served on three UNESCO committees and was a foundation member of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

During the 1990s he chaired the National Landcare Advisory Committee, the Tropical Finfish Management Advisory Committee and the North Queensland Regional Economic Development Board. He has also served as a member of the Prime Minister's Science and Engineering Council during his term as President of the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies (FASTS).

o First class honours graduate in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology Barry Thompson studied how one of the body's hormones, growth hormone, works to drive body growth and regulate body metabolism. Mr Thompson has been using the new technology of gene arrays to identify genes that are turned on or off by growth hormone.

"The aim of the human genome project is to discover all of the genes in the body," Mr Thompson said. "The next challenge will be to determine how these genes are turned on and off in body cells under different conditions. Gene arrays are an exciting new tool for answering this question. My study has found several genes that are turned on during the action of growth hormone, which may help us understand how growth hormone has its effects. Around the world, researchers are using gene arrays to find genes that are switched on during body development, disease and other physiological processes."

Mr Thompson's work was conducted in the laboratory of Professor Mike Waters. He hopes to pursue further genetic studies using gene arrays for his PhD. Contact Mr Thompson telephone 3365 3130 (work) or 3846 3902 (home).

Environmental toxicologist Dr Jack Ng will be awarded his PhD at the 6.15pm ceremony following his study of arsenic in the environment. Dr Ng is the Manager (Laboratory and Finance) of the National Research Centre for Environmental Toxicology, a centre of excellence under the management of The University of Queensland and is jointly funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, Queensland Health, Griffith University and The University of Queensland.

Dr Ng's research developed a model which should be a useful tool for studying chronic arsenic toxicity in both humans and animals. The project also targeted a more accurate and realistic health risk assessment at contamination sites, and established a number of biomarkers of effects resulting from the exposure of arsenic.

Due to the ubiquitous nature of arsenic and its toxic and carcinogenic properties, high levels of arsenic caused by environmental pollution poses a significant health risk. In recent years, levels exceeding the World Health Organisation drinking water guideline value have been found in Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia of PR China, Taiwan, West Bengal and Bangladesh. An estimated 20 million to 45 million people are potentially at risk from this contaminant.

Dr Ng, who was keynote speaker last month at the Rotary Peace Conference on Arsenic Free Water in Calcutta, has been an invited speaker on arsenic pollution and toxicity at numerous international workshops and is a contributing author of the International Program on Chemical Safety Environmental Health Criteria Document on Arsenic and Arsenic Compounds Task Group meeting. Dr Ng's research work covers arsenic speciation, bioavailability, biomarkers, human risk assessment and carcinogenic effects of arsenic to humans and animals. Contact: Dr Jack Ng, telephone 3274 9020.

o Catherine Tarr says doing subjects which engage her interest and aptitude were behind her Grade Point Average (GPA) of 6.95 (out of a possible seven) for her Bachelor of Science (Mathematics). She will graduate with her degree at tonight's ceremony. Ms Tarr was recently accepted into the University's Graduate School of Medicine and said having to obtain another degree before entry had boosted her confidence and allowed her to explore other options. "However, I realised during the course of my BSc that medicine was what I really wanted to do. I hope one day to specialise in paediatrics or work as a general practitioner," she said. Her choice of subjects for her BSc including physiology and pharmacology and applied mathematics would be helpful for her future studies, she said. While an undergraduate, Ms Tarr said she maintained a balanced lifestyle, enjoying social netball, swimming and running to keep fit. "I was always up-to-date with my work and then studied really hard at exam time," she said. Her father, Professor Tony Tarr (Head of the University's T.C. Beirne School of Law), mother Lynne Farrar, stepmother Julie-Anne (a university PhD student) and younger sister Hayley, will attend her graduation. Contact Catherine Tarr, telephone 07 3365 2339.

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